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S.F. Maritime National Historical Park Passes Visitation Milestone

In 2021, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park surpassed a visitation milestone of 125 million accumulated recreation visits since its establishment in 1988. Across that year alone, despite the COVID restrictions, more than 2.8 million visitors visited the park — an increase of one million visitors since the beginning of the pandemic.

The park is a favorite among locals, and a popular tourist destination. Jonathan Dille, Acting Superintendent of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, said, “Each year, millions of visitors from around the country and the world visit San Francisco to experience the thrilling sights and sounds of our urban waterfront. As a park, we are proud of the contributions our dedicated staff and volunteers make to bring the rich maritime history of San Francisco to life.”

The park encompasses a fleet of historic vessels, including the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha, the 1895 schooner C.A. Thayer, the 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka, the 1891 scow schooner Alma, and others. In addition to touring the ships, visitors can learn more at the Visitor Center, Maritime Museum and the Maritime Research Center —although appointments are required for the latter — along with the historic Aquatic Park District. With facilities like these, it’s no wonder the site has enjoyed such high visitation numbers.

National Historical Park
You might want to set aside a few hours for this visit; it will be well worth it.
© 2022 SF Maritime National Historical Park

According to a 2020 NPS Visitor Spending Effects Report, in 2020, the 1.9 million park visitors to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park spent $49.2 million in gateway communities, which in turn supported 500 local jobs. While some of the most well-known national parks again had record visitation in 2021, numbers across the entire National Park System remained below pre-pandemic totals, as shown in the latest National Park Service-published visitation statistics for 2021. Of 423 parks in the National Park System, just 25 received more than 50 percent of the system’s total 297.1 million recreation visits in 2021. Last year’s visitation increased by 60 million over 2020, when COVID-19 shuttered facilities in most parks for at least part of the year.

We’re fortunate to live within reach of such an outstanding facility. And what’s more, the S.F. Maritime National Historical Park supports education with free educational opportunities for students of all ages, ranging from curricula for the classroom to ranger- and teacher-led programs.

The ships are open year-round, so if you haven’t visited the park, we encourage you to do so.

And, as we’ve been on a bit of a historical-photo mission of late, here’s a video created by the S.F. Maritime National Historical Park that talks about the many ships that became buried beneath San Francisco neighborhoods after the Gold Rush had subsided.


For an in-depth look at visitation statistics, please visit the National Park Service Social Science website. For national summaries and individual park figures, please visit the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website.

1 Comment

  1. Brooks Townes 1 year ago

    Good for the National Park Service for keeping alive the museum marine historian Karl Kortum founded, for learning something of ship husbandry on the job over the years after the fed’s dismal initial efforts in the late 1980s, early `90s.

    To not mention Kortum and his right hand bro, Harry Dring , the legions of volunteer craftspeople & civic leaders and the few employees who built the museum in the first place seems churlish . It really should be noted that San Francisco’s maritime museum had been open long before 1988. It was the hard and inspiring work & leadership of Kortum and legions of volunteers for more than three decades before then that brought the San Francisco Maritime Museum into existence. With volunteers – some of the Bay Area’s finest craftsman from Stones Yard and elsewhere, union steelworkers, electricians, pipe fitters, Red Stack tugboat crews, even San Francisco Chronicle reporters -who built that museum with their hands or promoting donations, who are responsible for the museum ships being in San Francisco – the square-rigged ship Balclutha, the lumber schooner C.A. Thayer … . All the significant vessels the Park Service acquired in the late `80s were brought to The City and rather well preserved or restored best as meager budgets allowed.

    After Kortum died, the California State parks folks took over the museum and failed miserably to keep the vessels healthy. Realizing it was in over its head in expensive, demanding ship preservation, the state turned the museum & vessels over to the National Park Service which also initially failed to heap glory upon itself in the ships’ behalf but the NPS seems to have grown & learned . Like many who worked with Kortum & Dring, I tuned out news of the museum years ago as too depressing. Now it appears the Park Service has learned a few things, seeing as the museum vessels remain afloat, testaments to the Great Age of Sail and more recent maritime history vital in California’s past.

    The NPS deserves our thanks for that!

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